Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Business


A social bank has been argued as a viable solution to empower disadvantaged micro-entrepreneurs through a long-term relationship. Social banks play a critical role in alleviating poverty in subsistence marketplaces through their relationships with micro-entrepreneurs as business customers. Despite the importance of relationship quality in social banking, there is little empirical evidence of its dimensions and effects in subsistence marketplaces. Thus, a critical research question remains unanswered on relationship quality dynamics and their overall effects on financial and social outcomes. Drawing on the relationship marketing, social exchange, and self-determination theories, this study answers the research questions by conducting in-depth interviews of business customers (n =30), managers (n =20) and two cross-sectional surveys of business customers (n =200, n = 300) in a subsistence marketplace using the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh as a research context. The findings yield a third-order relationship quality model with three second-order dimensions (i.e., trust, respect, and reciprocity) and nine subdimensions (i.e., credibility, caring customization, recognition, responsibility, empathy, community support, community informativeness, and enjoyment). The findings confirm the impact of relationship quality on customer inspiration, empowerment, financial self-efficacy, customer value, and quality of life. These findings illuminate the unique contributions of the study to advance theory, practice, and policy implications through four peer-reviewed publications in high-impact journals (1 A* and 3 A-ranked journals).

Study 1 develops a conceptual model of relationship quality for social banking in subsistence marketplaces using thematic analysis and in-depth interviews of customers (n=30). Having explored the prior studies and relevant theories, this thesis identifies three primary dimensions (i.e., trust, respect, and reciprocity) and nine subdimensions (credibility, caring, customization, recognition, responsibility, empathy, community support, community enjoyment, and community informativeness). Drawing on the social exchange theory, the study argues the foundations of the relationship quality model and presents a conceptual relationship quality framework. Study 2 empirically tests and validates a hierarchical relationship quality model by collecting data from business customers (or micro-entrepreneurs) (n=200) of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Using PLS-SEM, the findings confirm business trust, respect, and reciprocity as the primary dimensions of relationship quality, which were shaped by nine subdimensions. The findings also identify the significant impact of relationship quality on quality of life in which financial self-efficacy plays a key mediating role. Study 3 empirically validates the research model through in-depth interviews (n=30) and a survey of a new group of business customers (micro-entrepreneurs) of social banks (n=300). The findings reiterate the relationship quality model as a hierarchical, context-specific, and multidimensional model. However, this study identifies customer inspiration as a mediator between relationship quality and business customer value. The moderating findings show that customer inspiration has a greater impact on customer value when overall relationship quality is higher. Study 4 identifies future opportunities and challenges with regard to relationship quality in social banking. This study investigates how data-driven innovation (DDI) initiatives can recognise and integrate relational dimensions into their service offerings to combat poverty. Based on a systematic review of existing literature, thematic analysis, and in-depth interviews with 20 microfinance managers, this study identifies the dimensions of relationship quality that need to be leveraged. The results of this study confirm trust and commitment as critical relationship capabilities. The results of this study enhance the knowledge of how microfinance institutions might employ DDI to attain a sustained competitive advantage.

Overall, the findings of this thesis present a hierarchical relationship quality model to understand the relationship dynamics between social banks and micro-entrepreneurs in a subsistence marketplace. The results also confirm the significant effects of overall relationship quality on micro-entrepreneurs through financial (i.e., financial self-efficacy and customer value) and social outcomes (i.e., customer inspiration, customer empowerment and quality of life).

FoR codes (2020)

3506 Marketing, 3507 Strategy, management and organisational behaviour, 3504 Commercial services, 3599 Other commerce, management, tourism and services

This thesis is unavailable until Friday, October 17, 2025



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.